World of Dualities

Random ramblings of a software geek.

An Experiment With Developing a Mobile App in the Open

So, I’ve been developing this Windows 8.x ‘Metro’ app - All About Money - for a while now (first released a version in late 2012).

It all started with me getting carried away with the Windows 8 hype cycle and being a .NET developer who’d already done a lot of XAMLing, I thought I’d checkout what WinRT and its version of XAML was about - and build an app to learn the ropes of mobile/touch-first development.

This post is part of a series on my journey rebuilding my app and learning a lot of new stuff. Other posts in the series:

Series: All About Money - A journey to build a mobile app

Week 0
Week 1
  • UI and wireframes

… more to come …

Week n
  • The final push to release

All About Money

That went well (the learning, building and actually shipping it) - though I ended up spending a lot more time than I planned - on researching colour theory, UX design principles, design guidelines and so on. I got the first version out within 3-4 months in late 2012 and since it was one of the first (decent-looking - if I say so myself) personal finance apps in the store at that time - it got noticed and rose to the top 10 in the finance category and stayed there for a while. To be honest, there wasn’t much competition in the Win 8 store - atleast in the finance apps category for almost a year and a half. Even after that - I found that though my little app lacked many important features, people kept using / downloading it (I’d imagine that mostly because it is free!).

Slowly I kept pushing out a few updates and within a year and a bit I noticed I’d already crossed 100K downloads! This was getting a bit bigger than just a toy app I developed for learning. There were actual people using it and asking for help.

So I set up a Uservoice site for my app, and saw people posting a whole bunch of feature requests. The requests poured in much quicker than I could develop them: after all this was just a side project I worked on when I felt like in the evenings. I’d also setup a Azure mobile service for giving me real-time crash data (again - partly to learn, and partly to get some customised analytics / crash info without having to wait for the crash dumps to appear in the Windows store developer portal).

To help with the hosting of a site, and pay for some parts of the development cost like the app store registration etc, I introduced a couple of in-app purchases. People occasionally purchase those - but it hasn’t made me much beyond covering the services I was using (Azure, website hosting, etc).

But recently, I’ve also been working a bit with Xamarin (at work for clients), and I thought I could do a better job of supporting users and actually pay for some nicer looking design / graphics etc. if I branch out and push out to a wider audience than the 12 users [1] in the world who use Windows 8 tablets.

So I’m starting this experiment to develop this (semi-commercial [2]) app in a much more open way. I’ll post (most of the) source code on Github, my development plans on a public Trello board, the feature requests are already open on Uservoice.

I’m not sure what will come of it - but I hope to look back at this and think of the product development and software design process I am going through as an indie app developer - as having helped someone, anyone doing the same.

Interested? Well join in, help / criticise / comment / learn / build / share and enjoy the ride!

[1] Based on a very scientific study of counting the number of people with Windows 8 tablets I saw on tram/train rides to work and in meetings.
[2] Yes, I know the app boom is over and indie devs don’t get rich writing apps.

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